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Monday, November 16, 2015

Of Rags and Riches



My dad, a Boston attorney was generous to a fault.  When I say that, I mean his fault was not that he was too generous, but that when he was, his taste could be, well, call it…questionable.  I can’t tell you how many times he bought my mother gifts of clothing she returned, but it was such a regular occurrence I used to wish just once, she’d keep something he bought for her.  His taste wasn't all bad. Nowadays, I suspect the refusal to accept anything he bought may have been some kind of power trip, but it also could have been because he did a lot of his shopping at Filene's Basement, the liquidator for the now defunct department store.  If you never knew the place, it worked like this.  An item arrived on the floor with the tag marked at a reduced price, as well as scheduled dates for future markdowns. So, if you were daring enough to risk someone else scooping an item you coveted, you could wait it out and potentially end up with an awesome deal.  But the truth of it was, a lot of the things that hung around until the final markdown were of questionable colors or patterns, and often, my dad cut through The Basement on his way to the train station for the trip home.

Anyway, the Christmas of my senior year in college, I opened up a box holding a wool skirt, and let’s just say, I knew who bought it and where.  The quality of the material was excellent, the fit, slightly irregular but passable, the color, well, blocks of grey, mustard, and rust.  And back then folks, I was a blue, pink, and teal sort of girl.  But I was also approaching the end of my schooling, with potential job interviews pending, and my wardrobe consisted of jeans and corduroys.  So, as ugly as it appeared to me, I wore the thing. Probably the reason I remember it so vividly, was that every time I put it on I wished it looked better. But I knew who bought it and I wanted to like it.  Therefore, I pretended I did.

A long time later, years after I stopped forcing myself to put it on, that skirt made it to the donation pile.  But this time of year, when I look out to the land around me, I always remember it.  I have no doubt the designer of that piece of apparel took inspiration from rusty oak leaves skittering up the street, from the swallows lined up on the telephone wire, the yellow leaf-rags refusing to lift from the stalwart ash.  I imagine it rumpled across the land when I see the colors of November, the granite walls we see again, now the leaves have dropped, in the feather-wisp of smoke-colored clouds smudging the late afternoon sky. I didn’t like that skirt, and even now, I'm guessing the inspiration didn't translate.  But I remember it and wonder, if I could pull it out of my closet again, whether now, I'd recognize the subtle beauty my dad must have seen all those years ago when he bought it for a steal.  





18 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They say it's the thought that counts, right?
Never thought about it, but someone did have to create the design, and surly they liked it when they did.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Is it possible that your father was color blind? Many men are.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It's funny the things we remember, and when. You no longer have the skirt, but you still have the memory.

Gail said...

Wonderful pictures.

Those are the pieces I save for quilts and pillows and I can keep the memory.

Delores said...

The fact that it sat around for ages and finally ended up in the 'bargain basement' says a lot for the colour and design...still...who knows...maybe if you could see it again you might like it.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

we men DO have a subtle eye (cough cough)

love your shots

Daisy said...

Our tastes do change sometimes. It's possible it might appeal to you now. Sweet story and your photos are quite beautiful.

Joanne said...

It's good you can remember the thought and try to gloss it at this juncture. Sounded like he tried....and maybe he was trying for camo for you - hide behind that big rock. (nice pics)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Bless your father for trying. I finally convinced my husband not to buy me clothing about twenty years ago. Your pictures are as lovely as usual and really show the somber colors of winter.

Robin said...

My dad never even tried to shop for us (clothes-wise). In fact, as I got older he and I took a day before Christmas and bought all my mom's gifts together. I suppose he knew that he didn't have that knack. Plus, mom made a fairly specific list of what she wanted... indicating she didn't trust me a whole lot either!

I think it's sweet he thought of you guys at all as he hustled through that store. It's nice to know you're on someone's mind when you're not standing right in front of them.

Pixel Peeper said...

My husband and I never buy clothes for each other, so that eliminates a lot of issues. We both are really horrible clothes shoppers, and neither of us has any kind of fashion sense. It's a lot of very boring, basic, neutral colors for us...LOL.

Your photos are beautiful!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

It's so hard to buy things for other people. Especially when it's a man buying for a woman! This story is filled with warmth and interesting details. I quite enjoyed it.

Crystal Collier said...

What a sweet memory. I love that your dad tried. Mine was terrified of clothing and left that entirely to Mom.

glnroz said...

big smile here,,, I think that skirt is more dear than u had time about which to write. reckon?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lisa - thanks for coming by my blog. The picture-story you draw gives me the 'glimps' (totally made up word!) ... cheap clothes, but a woollen one too ... I can't wear wool and I'm cringing writing this comment!

Thankfully I was let loose to buy my own clothes - but had no idea why I itched in these wonderful clothes I chose ... sometimes I still get it wrong today ... living in cotton is not easy - comfortable, but not easy to find!

Great story though .. cheers Hilary

Catherine A. Winn said...

I loved Filene's Basement. Never went there because I lived in Texas but my two aunts shopped there and sent me some pretty wonderful things. Maybe because they were Boston women who had style! Don't know what I would have thought if one of my uncles shopped there :).

Nicola said...

A heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing. I adore your pictures! Wishing you a lovely and happy Thanksgiving!

Kittie Howard said...

Madeline said it well, that's it's funny the things we remember. But how you put it in perspective tugged at my heart. Beautiful memories beautifully shared!